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Mon, 16 Dec 2019

Northeast Today

Organic Farming: A Profession of Hope

Organic Farming: A Profession of Hope
July 02
16:39 2019

Enriched with biodiversity Northeast India provides its inhabitants the golden opportunity to choose a career on this eco friendly farming system ‘Organic Farming’.  Kristi Borah talks to Francis Dutta, a Research Scholar of Horticulture Department, Assam Agriculture University where he describes about the various aspects of an Organic Farming. In this highly informative conversation, Francis describes very succinctly about the various aspects and scope of Organic farming. Here’s her report based on the conversation.

 

First Words

Founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Natural Resource Policy Vandana Shiva says “I would say that organic farming is a 100-percent solution to the health problem, to the unemployment problem, the poverty problem, the biodiversity problem, and the water problem”.

 

Organic Farming

 

What is Organic Farming?

As per the definition of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) study team on organic farming “organic farming is a system which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetic inputs (such as fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, feed additives etc.) and to the maximum extent feasible rely upon crop rotations, crop residues, animal manures, off-farm organic waste, mineral grade rock additives and biological system of nutrient mobilization and plant protection”

The concept of organic farming isn’t new to us as it was the only way of agriculture of our great grandfathers. With the burgeoning population, our aim should be as such that we not only stabilize the agricultural production, but also increase it further by taking a sustainable approach. Green revolution in 1960s though helped India to be a food exporter; it is now sustained with diminishing return of falling dividends.

So, it has become imperative to maintain a natural balance for existence of life and property. And hereby we see a rise in organic farming, as it is the need of the hour. Moreover, consumers are more inclined these days towards a healthy lifestyle and are opting for organic foods over the ones grown using chemicals.

This brings us to our main concern, i.e. when more and more conventional farmers are opting out of farming and the mouths to be feed are exponentially increasing day by day, it has become crucial that more individuals as well as government bodies should take up farming to maintain the balance.

Another question which strikes the mind is that, “Why will someone take the organic route, when the application of chemical fertilizers, insecticides and hormones are giving them early and abundant produce?”

Job profile of an organic farmer

An organic farmer recognizes the necessity for intensification of agricultural productivity and profitability with long term sustainable goals and ensuring safe and healthy food for consumers. The job of an organic grower involves cultivation of organic crops as per the organic package of practices recommended for a particular agro-climate zone, using approaches like diversity, cattle integration, on-farm input generation, biomass recycling, natural resource use optimization in exclusion of synthetic inputs directly or indirectly and sell the organic produce as per the competitive market prices without distress sale. The job requires the individual to have the skills to work independently, bearing risks and must have ability to work hard and take decisions pertaining to his area of work. The individual should be result oriented and should be accountable for his/her own learning and working. She /he should be able to access and analyze various opportunities & threats concerning to climate and market conditions.

 

We can divide organic farming career into 2 different domains:

1. Jobs in organic sector

2. Organic Entrepreneur.

 

Scope of an Organic Farmer

Scope of an organic farmer/organic farming in Indian organic market is expected to touch ₹10,000-₹12,000 crores by 2020. Makes it one of the fast growing sector in India with a growth rate of more than 25% per annum. The scope of organic farming in India has been tremendously increasing, which is mainly attributed to the new researches in the field of agriculture. It has facilitated the farmers with new measures for more production, eliminating the activity of bypass methods. New techniques which are being innovated are purely related to soil health during organic farming. Consumption of organic products basically spreads from one person to other. To make it clear, people have reshaped health into lifestyle. This opens up opportunities for many new entrepreneurs in India with a huge response from the consumers. Moreover, the setup costs and maintenance is extremely less since the method does not involve the use of artificial products for farming.

 

Pros and cons of organic farming

 Pros:

1. With organic fertilizers soil crusting is reduced. Organics may improve water movement into the soil and, in time, add structure to the soil.

2. Organics feed beneficial microbes, thereby making the soil easier to work.

3. Organic manures usually contain many plant nutrients in low concentrations, unlike inorganic fertilizers, which usually contain only a few nutrients.

4. Plants can absorb nutrients in slow and gradual manner from organic manures.

5. Organic pesticides are low cost; easily degradable, rapid decomposition by sunlight has the effect quickly.

6. The pesticide residues are low in organic food. Organic produce typically carries significantly fewer pesticide residues than conventional produce.

7. Some people buy organic food for environmental reasons. Organic farming practices are designed to benefit the environment by reducing pollution and conserving water and soil quality.

 

Cons:

1. Farming practices are more expensive in organic farming.

2. Organic manures usually contain many plant nutrients in low concentrations. Many of these nutrients have to be converted into inorganic forms by soil bacteria and fungi before plants can use them, so they typically are more slowly released, over time. Unlike inorganic fertilizers they are not in concentrated form. Due to very low availability of nutrient percentages, it is not possible to apply a particular essential nutrient to correct the deficiencies. Also it is not possible to apply in desired levels.

3. Plants cannot absorb organic manures as such. Plants and microbes have to transform the organic fertilizers to inorganic form so that plants can absorb readily.

4. As the yield productivity is less in organic farming the cost of food is very high.

5. Because organic fruits and vegetables aren’t treated with waxes or preservatives, they may spoil faster.

 

Problems of Organic farming in North Eastern Region of India

The major problem areas for the growth of organic farming in the region are the lack of awareness, output marketing problems, inadequate supporting infrastructure, high input costs, absence of an appropriate agricultural policy, lack of financial support and lack of quality standards of bio manures to name a few.

 

While the Government of India recently implemented the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) that involves the accreditation programme for Certification Bodies, standards for organic production, promotion of organic farming, etc., there are still certain issues that needs to addressed — the food needs to be genuinely organic, which includes the entire process of growing to packing to delivering at the stores.

 

Organic farming as a career option

When the organic, movement was started, the NE states were identified as one of the promoting zone for organic farming. These states were selected because the land was almost virgin and the crops were grown virtually organic. There is tremendous scope for organic agriculture in the north eastern region of India, because the use of inorganic fertilizers and chemicals is least in the region.

When considering career choices, youth, generally shy away from agriculture, which is sad considering that we are predominantly an agricultural country. Organic farming as a career option in the region is still in its infancy. Though farming is not considered as a profitable profession but if you adopt niche method of organic farming it will be a very rewarding career. A few daring individuals of them have come out of their comfort zones and have decided to venture into this field, either by producing or supporting farmers to yield fresh and unadulterated produce that is healthy for consumption. With the rapid growth of the urban and suburban areas and the rising financial stability will positively impact the demand for better quality organic produce, even if they are priced slightly higher than their counterparts. Thus, with health becoming a priority, MRP has taken a backseat when buying organic. With the rise of the star hotels in the region, the demand for organically grown commodities is destined to increase.

Officials from APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) had reported that the demand for Indian organic food products is on constant increase worldwide as India exported organic products worth $ 515 million in financial year 2017-18, from $ 370 million in 2016-17. And the Organic Farming Research Foundation says that USA sales aside, organic food sales are quickly gaining international acceptance, and areas such as Japan and Germany are becoming important international organic food markets. Therefore, an exciting opportunity lies in front of the organic farmers of the NE region to export their produce to the international markets, provided they meet the necessary standards.

With the advent of better connectively and rise in smartphone usage, e-commerce sites offering fresh organic food items will create a major impact in the near future and thereby the organic farmers can reap major benefits

Other good endeavours for organic farmers include catering directly to urban and suburban consumers and participating in cooperatives or community-supported agriculture.

But also it is worthwhile to mention that before stepping in the new lexicon, it is important to be aware of the challenges which will be faced and to be abreast with the policies and norms in this sector. And if the target is local market it is always a good idea to do a market survey before entering into this industry.

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